I first learnt of hypnobirthing toward the end of my second trimester. I was working in a remote community and the visiting midwife asked me if I had thought about the birth. My response was that I was trying not to think about it until the time came! (I knew that I wanted to try for drug free, but with my preconceived ideas and negative imagery about labour and birth, my logic was that I would not be in pain until the time came so didn't want to torture myself thinking about it too much beforehand). She encouraged me to look into hypnobirthing, explaining that she had the pleasure of assisting at births with several women who had used the method, including one mother who basically "breathed her baby out". She said she thought everyone should learn about it.
With the midwife's encouraging words I felt cautiously optimistic about having a positive birthing experience and set out to find a hypnobirthing practioner on the Sunshine Coast where I would be returning home to in the third trimester. A quick Google search and I found Carrie's Joymamma website. I discussed it with my husband that night. At the time he was very apprehensive about the birth as he didn't want to see me suffering, every now and then joking that he might sit it out, so he was happy to do anything that might ease both of our nerves.
Several weeks later we attended the first session of our five week course with Carrie, along with my other birth partner, my mum, in tow. From that first session our minds began to ease. The content that Carrie covered really made sense, nothing complicated or 'airy-fairy'. As the weeks went by, with Carrie's guidance, I gained more and more confidence in my ability to have a calm and natural birth experience, letting go of old and unhelpful fears, and learning to relax.
There were several times that Carrie went above and beyond and showed us so much kindness. At one point I didn't feel I was quite getting the hang of the breathing techniques. Carrie saw I could do with a little extra help and assisted with additional communication and resources. My hubby was working away for all but one session of the five week course but Carrie made the time to have a free private session with us after the course had finished, to help him prepare to be the birthing partner that I hoped for him to be. Carrie is excellent at what she does and I am so grateful for her caring nature, reassurance, and beautifully calm approach which helped us on our way to have the birth for our son that I am so proud of.
It did not unfold exactly as I had hoped (posterior position, unable to enter water due to fetal monitor, some strong 'pushing' required at the end), however hypnobirthing taught me to calmly meet whatever turn my birthing took and I was able to remain deeply relaxed through it all, trusting in my body and baby to know what to do naturally, so calm and content, free from fear or tension that could have interrupted the wonderful process. Thanks to the breathing and relaxation techniques, visualisations and affirmations, heat packs and massage I was able to handle the 14 hours serenely and with relative ease (so much so that hubby didn't really believe that I was labouring until my waters released when I was nearing completion).
When it was all over my hubby and mum were amazed. I'm sure it has brought us closer together, and hubby and I even more in love. Even the attending midwife commented that the hypnobirthing must be the reason why this first time mama handled a drug-free posterior labour so beautifully. Hypnobirthing is wonderful, I wish more people knew about it and more women empowered by it. We personally got so much more out of it by doing the course with Carrie than we would have done by reading a book alone. Carrie gave us heaps of great tips, helped us to feel totally supported and to understand the importance of making the time to nurture myself and our baby during that special time.
One day past the due date I had my weekly obstetrician check up. All was well with baby but they advised me that he had turned from left occiput anterior ('optimal' birthing position) to right occiput posterior. They said I had some work to do to reposition him before the labour or it would be "long and yucky". Not the kind of language this hypnobirthing Mama-to-be wanted to hear! I repeated my affirmations including "I calmly meet whatever turn my birthing may take".
I got a little emotional after the check up but got stuck straight in to exercises I was given to do. Later I went for a walk on the soft sand at the beach with mum. When Cael got home I got him to help me with the rebozo technique and side lying exercises and inversion.
Over the next couple of days I kept active with more beach walks, swimming in the ocean and pool, inversions and, with Cael's help, side lying exercises and rebozo technique. I could tell that baby was still posterior from his movements in my belly. On Saturday at around 6pm my sister picked me up and took me to mum's house. We had Thai green curry for dinner, then sat in her room. I attempted to help her put together some new furniture but I was starting to feel surges and some discomfort in my back so I decided to lay on her bed. By 8.30pm Cael arrived at mum's from soccer.
The surges now felt stronger and different to the warm up/practice surges that I had experienced before so I began timing them while I continued the calm breathing and surge breathing techniques. Cael finished putting together the furniture, and I waited for mum to get home from work so she could give me reiki. By the time mum got home at 10.30pm I asked her for a massage, but by that point I was sure I was in early labour so then asked her to instead sleep over at our house. We all went home and Cael and I did the side lying technique again, then mum spent until around 1am with me giving me reiki and massage and applying the heat pack as
I timed my surges and listened to the hypnobirthing playlist while continuing the breathing techniques and visualisations. Mum and Cael went to bed at around 1am, and I encouraged them to as I was anticipating a "long labour" and thought it best if they rest up for the day ahead. Throughout the night I continued timing my own surges using the contraction timer app and doing the breathing techniques, laying on my side in bed and occasionally moving around and stretching. At around 3am I had 'the show'. I came back to the bed and put my phone on loud speaker so Cael could hear my call to the hospital. I let them know that I thought I would be coming in soon and that I was hypnobirthing. They asked what was happening and then said it sounded like I was in early labour and encouraged me to stay home and rest for now until the surges were closer and more regular.
At around 5am I woke Cael to let him know that the surges were getting more intense and I needed him to start supporting me now. He went to the kitchen and warmed up the heat pack and then mum also got up and came to the bedroom. We decided they would do separate shifts with me so mum went back to bed and Cael laid in bed next to me timing the surges (much better not timing them myself). I told him I was looking forward to getting into the bath at hospital (I hadn't got into the bath at home as in the hospital active birthing class they discouraged home baths before hospital as "they may slow labour"). Mum came in to the bedroom after about three more surges and said she would stay with me, so Cael went back to sleep while Mum gave me massage and applied the heat pack to my lower back. During the surges I continued listening to the hypnobirthing playlist, doing the surge breathing (and calm breathing in between), visualisations, relaxation techniques and affirmations.
Laying on my side with a pillow between my legs and the heat pack on was the most comfortable position. I did get up and move around, but because of my lower back I seemed to do much better through the surges when I was laying on my side. Mum made me some raisin toast and camomile tea, but I didn't feel like eating. Then I had to vomit. No real nausea or discomfort, just an instant reaction.
Afterwards, I said to mum that I was confused as I thought that was a hallmark of nearing completion but the surges were still not totally regular. By 7am I asked to have a look at the contraction timer. The last few contractions were all around 4 to 4.5 minutes apart. I told mum that we should get going to the hospital. She said that she would go and get dressed. I woke Cael and told him to put the bags in the car, but he fell back to sleep (still not believing that I truly was in labour)! I continued timing my surges while waiting for mum to return, 2.5 to 6 mins apart varying from 40 to 60 seconds.
At 7.40am I began timing another surge that was just 2.5 mins from the last and not long in to it I heard a pop and I gasped. Cael woke and asked "What!?". I told him my waters had released. He quickly hopped out of bed and starting getting everything together. Mum came to my side and called the birth suite to tell them we were coming in, they wanted to talk to me and mum passed me the phone. They asked me something but I had another surge and put the phone down. Mum finished the call and we got up. I had a quick shower and got dressed.
Now the surges were really stepping up, more intense and closer together, though we had stopped timing. I started to feel a bit pushy! As we were about to leave, after a strong surge with my head resting on the doorway I asked mum "Have we left it too late?". "No darling, hop in the car, the hospital is only five minutes away." For the car ride I put on my blind fold and went deeper with my breathing and visualisations. When we arrived at the hospital Cael walked with me to the birth suite stopping twice before the reception entrance to support me through surges as I rested against his chest and shoulders.
As we made our way in to the maternity ward mum had caught up to us. I was met by a nurse and I held on to her and the desk through another surge. She took us to the maternity room we would be having our stay and said to me "they're really on top of each other aren't they?" referring to my surges. She explained that there was meconium in my waters and "didn't know how they would feel about me labouring in the tub". I took a deep breath and mentally repeated my affirmation to calmly meet whatever turn my birthing may take.
Cael helped me in to the shower then he went and moved the car as mum went about unpacking my things. I stood in the shower leaning against the railing through a few surges. Then Cael told me it was time to move to the birth suite. I got on the bed for another surge before we left the room and as we made our way there I had another surge at the birth suite doorway, I grabbed Cael and then mum as she supported me as I worked through it. When we got into the birthing room I stood by the bed for one surge, Cael setup my LED candles and music, one track played, but I asked him to put the hypnobirthing playlist back on.
I had a fetal monitor attached, several bands strapped around my waist, and got up on the bed and lay on my side on the bed with my pillow between my knees, and continued working with my body through the surges. I heard the midwife introduce herself, and Cael telling her about labour starting the night before. It was confirmed that I could not labour in the tub due to the meconium, and the need for staying connected to a fetal monitor. I asked if I could hop in the shower and the midwife got me to stand up and attempted to hook me up to a waterproof monitor but she could not get a reading so I was not able to. I again remained calm rather than disappointed and returned to my side lying position on the bed.
Through my surges Cael kept holding my hand, telling me he loved me and I was doing so well. Mum continued with birthing partner prompts and reiki, as well as applying the gel heat pack we had brought from home. Mum told me to breathe up with each surge and I told her that it wasn't up anymore, it was down, and again said I felt like pushing.
As I entered the birthing phase I began the birth breathing and humming as I breathed love down to baby, and controlling the urge to push by focusing on the breath and striving to keep my birthing muscles relaxed. Staying loose and limp through this phase was not as easy as before, as during each surge my body did tense through my back and shoulders seemingly of its own accord. Mum gently pressed my shoulders down and I continued breathing and holding Cael's hand.
During this time hardly noticed the midwife at all. Then after some time on my side the midwife said she would like to do an examination as things should be progressing. She had me roll on to my back and I took a deep breath and tried to relax. As she was doing the examination I had a surge. This was really the only point I lost my focus and tensed up a little and said to mum "I don't like this!". The result of the examination was good news, I was about 10 cm dilated with just a tiny bit to go that should if I got up and active. I got up and lent over the right side of the bed which was raised up, and rested my elbows and forearms on a pillow, with Cael standing on the other side holding both of my hands, occasionally giving me water to sip on, and mum applying the heat pack and reiki massage to my lower back.
I swayed my hips from side to side during the breaks between surges. At one point in this position I saw that the clock on the wall hadn't been covered by the rose picture we were given by Carrie. I didn't really process the time, but instead pictured the opening rose and then a baby arriving out of it. I repeated that visualisation a couple of times. Time really was distorted. I heard the midwife tell mum that she was going to call the doctor, that nothing was wrong but she thought I was ready to have the baby. I heard her call and leave a message. And then him return the call, he was on the way.
After some time the midwife said to me, baby's getting a bit tired now, he's not recovering as quickly (from the surges), so I know you're not going to want to hear this but you need to start pushing, if the doctor comes he may want to get the baby out with forceps or vacuum if you don't start pushing. "Ok" I calmy replied. She told me to squat with each surge and to push.
Through each surge I squatted down as I pushed strongly and hummed with the birth breath and Cael held my hands from the other side of the bed supporting my weight. Mum was at the other end with the midwife. In between surges I rested, breathed and swayed my hips from side to side. I asked if my pushing was helping. Yes, they could see his head. They continued encouraging me to make each surge count. After about three or four surges like this I could feel him begin to emerge.
Through the final surge I began to feel pressure at the front so quickly tucked my tailbone under a little, I felt his head emerge, followed quickly by his little body as he landed in to the midwife's waiting hands (at 10.41am). "He's here" I sighed. And took a few breaths as I heard his first cries, and he was handed to me. "I did it!" I beamed to mum and Cael. Together we got up onto the bed for our first cuddle, skin to skin on my chest with a blanket over us.
There are really no words to describe it!